Arriving on a sweltering Taipei heat of 36 °C at 1 in the afternoon is not the vacation welcome that I was expecting. To dispose my heavy backpack and the anxiety of reaching the hotel immediately to freshen up are my top priorities, so I hurriedly try to find the airport bus bound to Taipei Main Station.
On the way from the airport to the station, I kept on peeking outside the window. Not the “bright, shiny” Taipei that I was expecting, maybe I was just accustomed to Japan where everything seems clean or organized. Did I make the right choice of spending my elusive few days vacation leave on this city? Honest first impression- I might be wrong on my decision.
At Taipei Main Station, I started to take care of business. Armed with list of questions to help me navigate the city on my own later, I visited the Tourist Information Desk and afterwards the MRT (subway) counter to buy the very convenient and economical Taipei Pass.
I have few hours left to visit places before my body surrender to the tiredness and sleepiness that I felt. I scrolled down on my list and chose to spend the rest of the day visiting Longshan Temple and the surrounding area.
Built in 1738 by settlers from Fujian,China, Mengjia Longshan Temple is one of the city, if not the most famous tourist temple. With the surrounding old high-rise residential building, park occupied by old men across the street and outdoor market located on the sides, Longshan Temple is just the welcome that I needed.
The smoke from the burning incense and the wish candles, the solemnity of people praying amidst the heat and the few tourists like me who keep on roaming around had me backtrack my first impression about the city.
It feels like I was intruding the residents at their prayers whenever I aim my camera to photograph. I tried to be discreet and respectful as much as possible, though I never encountered anyone who makes me feel that I was disturbing them or so.
I ended up not to far from the temple to one of the city best preserved old street called Bopiliao. Buildings are said to be dating back the Qing period and several were remains from the period of Japanese occupation.
If there is one thing I am looking forward in Taiwan is food- tasty, inexpensive meal. Despite the heat, I ordered a hot dumpling soup and chicken rice on one of the family-owned restaurant just across the Bopiliao street. Inside the restaurants are families who just finished their Sunday offering and prayers at Longshan Temple.
Last stop on my tour around the area is the Huaxi(Huasi) Street Night Market. Though still not hitting 6 in the afternoon, the sellers and the buyers were already occupying the street. There is nothing particularly interesting to buy at the market, nonetheless it is a great venue to savor Taipei street food.
Over-all, it was a wonderful, fulfilling first day. The three places that I visited so far is like a glimpse of what I should expect from my vacation- temples, markets, and the street– old or new plus more scooters on the road. Apologies about my wrong, first impression Taipei and I am looking forward for more discoveries.